Can’t have too many boot wash points on the farm

It was one of those really nice sunny days recently, that I went out to Tommy, to do the second year of his Knowledge Transfer Farm Improvement Plan.

Can’t have too many boot wash points on the farm

By Paul Redmond

It was one of those really nice sunny days recently, that I went out to Tommy, to do the second year of his Knowledge Transfer Farm Improvement Plan.

I was interested to see if he had taken on board any of the recommendations we had discussed the previous year.

Yes, some had been taken on board, but like a lot of his peers, biosecurity seemed to be a bit lax. For a lot, it seems that all that old stuff is for the Institutes and so on. The “I’m alright Jack” mentality is alive and well.

As I have outlined in the past, biosecurity is made up of two parts — bio-containment and bio-exclusion.

Biocontainment covers the situation where you have a certain disease on your farm, and you are trying to contain it to a certain group, and stop it spreading to the other groups.

Bio-exclusion, as the word suggests, is about keeping a disease out of your farm when you do not have it there in the first place.

As part of the Farm Improvement Plan, the compulsory section that everyone must carry out is the one on calf health and biosecurity. There are a number of biosecurity questions.

When we come to the one about disinfection points, the usual answer is “oh yes, I have one of those”. My usual retort is to question whether that is the “Bord Bia” one.

Usually, everyone has the one outside the dairy door. This ticks the box for the Bord Bia inspection. It is full of a batch of an iodine-type disinfectant newly made up especially for the day of the inspection.

For the rest of the year, it gets diluted by the showers of rain and dries out in the sunshine.

I find that if one of these is available at the place where I normally pull up in a yard, then I will automatically dip my wellington boots in it as I pass by.

It has become a natural reaction, but there is not much point in doing this if my boots are going to be dirtier when I take them out than when I put them in to the dip. There should really be a tap and hose available beside such a dip so that when the visitor is leaving, they can wash off any dirt with a brush and have the boots clean before they disinfect them in the boot disinfection point.

One disinfection point on the farm is not enough. There should obviously be one at the entrance/exit point but there should also be numerous ones throughout the farm.

I recently came across a poster at a conference I attended. The poster concerned a bit of recent research done in Italy. The title of this research was “Antimicrobial Resistance and prevalence of C. dificile in dairy farms in Umbria, Italy” In it, they also looked at the regular E coli.

Faecal samples were taken straight from calves and pooled. Swabs were taken from the farmer’s boots and other areas. The results showed that there was quite a lot of antimicrobial resistance to the drugs most commonly used in the area.

One thing that they stumbled on, quite by accident, was they found it four times easier to get a positive culture from the swabs taken from the farmer’s boots than from the pooled faecal samples taken straight from the calves. I thought “Wow! This is a pretty damning finding”.

There are clients of mine, jumping from one pen to the next spreading things like Rotavirus and Crytosporidia from one pen of calves to the next. If this doesn’t show the need for multiple disinfection points around the farm, I do not know what does.

- Paul Redmond, MVB, MRCVS, Cert DHH, Duntahane Veterinary Clinic, Fermoy, member practice of Prime Health Vets

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